NEW OXFORD — New Oxford boys’ basketball head coach Sean Bair didn’t think Noah Strausbaugh would be able to contribute on Friday night.
Strausbaugh, who missed the last two and a half weeks with mononucleosis, was only cleared to play 31 hours before the Colonials’ crucial Division I home match-up against undefeated York High – the No. 1 Class 5-A team in the state, according to TribLive HSSN’s poll.
“He’s exhausted,” Bair said. “We had two plans, and one of them was that Noah was not physically able to play in this game effectively.”
The guard played key minutes late in the game for New Oxford, though, and in an intense game with a 41-point scorer and a 29-point scorer, Strausbaugh, who scored six points, was the player who hit the biggest shot of the night.
The Colonials, who saw York High cut its early 22-point deficit down to three points with about two minutes left, chose to be aggressive with the lead, rather than play keep-away from the talented Bearcats. Strausbaugh got open on the left wing after New Oxford beat York High’s full-court press, and the former mono patient knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Colonials a six-point lead and eventually pull off the 79-73 upset.
“He left it all on the floor,” Bair said. “He played as freakin’ hard as he possibly could. He shot under 20 percent from 3 last year, and it was a big focal of the offseason for him. He really worked on it, and he came up with the biggest shot of the night.”
Big win: Bair said the victory is one of the program’s best wins in recent memory.
“We’re halfway through the division, and we’re in first place right now. We’ve never done that,” Bair said. “This one, and we beat Northeastern on Senior Night last year. Those are the top two wins easily.”
The Colonials (6-1, 9-3) hold the tiebreaker over York High (6-1, 10-1) in York-Adams League’s Division I. Abdul Jenneh, who led all Colonials with 29 points, said the win shows the team’s ceiling.
“We know if we can play with these guys and play up to their level — play past their level — that we can beat anyone we face,” Jenneh said.
Hot start: With a rowdy student section in support, the Colonials shot out of a cannon to a 32-10 lead after a quarter and a half.
New Oxford made its first seven 3-pointers and was 8 of 9 from behind the arc in the first half. The Colonials ended the game 10 of 19 from 3, with Strausbaugh’s fourth-quarter triple being one of two second-half makes.
“If you go 8 for 9 from 3 in a half and lose, you’re probably a bad coach,” Bair joked. “I mean, five different guys hit a 3 in the first half. That’s crazy.”
The Colonials’ physical defense was giving York High fits early, paired with a bad shooting half by the Bearcats.
“It goes back to our defense,” Jenneh said. “Playing such good defense, it transitions into our offense. We know we’re going to score, but it was about playing defense.”
After the Colonials entered halftime up 41-24, Jenneh, who was 7-for-13 shooting, said the team knew not to think the game’s result was sealed.
“We went into halftime, and we weren’t that excited,” Jenneh said. “We knew they were going to come out and press and give us all they had. We had to keep our composure and keep doing what we had to do.”
CG3 goes off: The Bearcats roared back in the third quarter, with Clovis Gallon Jr. leading the way.
After scoring 11 points in the first half, the 6-foot, 5-inch forward exploded for 30 in the second half to bring the Bearcats back. Gallon Jr. scored 13 in the third quarter, and the Bearcats trailed 53-49 and carried the momentum entering the final period.
The senior then drilled a 3-pointer with six minutes remaining to give York High its only lead, 56-55, of the second half.
“Clovis in the second half, oh my god. (He’s) outrageous,” Bair said. “He really wore us down. They did a great job finding him. His mentality in the second half was clear. As much as we tried, we didn’t have many answers for him. Heck of a performance.”
Free throw shooting: Despite Gallon Jr., who totaled 41 points on 12-of-14 shooting, made 4 of 10 3-pointers and 13 of 14 free throws, scoring 17 in the fourth quarter, the Bearcats’ comeback effort was derailed by New Oxford’s effective free throw shooting by.
The Colonials were 25 of 33 from the charity stripe in the inordinately physical, with Jenneh going 14 of 19 from the line.
“We lost two games earlier this year, because we can’t shoot free throws,” Bair said. “Abdul was outrageously good. Through eight or nine games, he was shooting like 38 percent from the line. … I’m just thrilled for him. It’s great as a teacher or a coach when you see a kid commit to something, work hard at it and get to experience that success. There’s nothing to be more proud of than that.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org